Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi is the third most important leader to emerge out of the 1974-75 JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) Movement. While Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar came from the socialist camp, Modi came from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad background. Much before Nitish Kumar attracted JP’s attention, Modi had hogged the limelight by becoming the Patna University Students’ Union (Pusu) general secretary in 1973, when Lalu Prasad was elected Pusu president.
Old-timers talk of how, while Lalu Prasad would reach the Pusu office, leisurely on a rickshaw, from his elder brother’s peon quarters located behind the Bihar Veterinary College, Sushil Kumar Modi would already be at work, meticulously taking care of office work.
Modi, 68, became an RSS worker and joined active politics only in the mid 1980s. When he started his political innings, BJP had stalwarts such as Kailashpati Mishra, Tarakant Jha, and Lalmuni Choubey. Since the 1990s belonged to Lalu Prasad, BJP had been biding its time. In the 1995 Assembly polls, BJP emerged the main opposition party, but the central BJP leadership chose format bureaucrat Yashwant Sinha as leader of the Opposition over Sushil Modi. But Sinha had to resign in the wake of the hawala case and was replaced by Modi in 1996. But with BJP joining hands with Nitish Kumar, Modi had to settle for the No. 2 position in the NDA alliance. He became Nitish’s deputy after NDA’s victory in the 2005 October Assembly polls. Nitish became the NDA leader and Modi seldom asserted his position. So much so that his relevance in the BJP is increasingly being tied to Nitish Kumar’s fortunes — Modi often faces the allegation of being a “JD(U) man in the BJP camp”.
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When the JD(U) was miffed about BJP ‘rebels’ joining the LJP, it was Sushil Modi who took it upon himself to reiterate faith in Nitish’s leadership.
As Bihar goes to 2020 polls, Sushil Kumar Modi is up against a second generation of BJP leaders – Dr Sanjay Jaiswal (BJP state president) and Nityanand Rai (Union minister of state for home affairs).
This election season, BJP’s tallest leader in Bihar has played a key role in the selection of the party’s candidates and will be one of the star campaigners for the NDA. When not in office, Modi is a fitness freak and catches up on news shows while on his treadmill at his home in Rajendra Nagar. His two sons, however, have stayed away from politics.